“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, May 27, 2011

Margie Ferguson on the Hymen: UCD Lecture 3

Body writing: practices that include hymenoplasty.

These practices are expanding in response to desires of individuals and groups. A scholarly project in the humanities can draw on historical and philological research to help solve a local and global problem.

Hymen surgeries are occurring in Davis, Cairo, Stockholm and other places. Question of qualitative changes from re-virgination practices in the past is an open one.

Older seeming words legitimate and clean up the physical abuse. OED editors describe the terms as recent in vintage. “Hymenogeny”: creation of hymens. What invented hymenography? This term is in the OED. “A description of the membranes of animal bodies.” For Aristotle the hymen was a membrane surrounding all organs in animal bodies. Not just one.

Modern tendency to reify the hymen can be located in the Tudor and Stuart archive.

Derrida's reflections on the hymen as a sign. There are few skeptical voices out there, however, even though there are problems with considering the hymen as a “separate” body part. And the generalization across time and space about a whole constituency of people and their bodies.

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